Friday, February 6, 2009
o In an effort to thwart off time-theft and loiterers, Apple has decided to add Facebook to the list of banned websites at retail locations nationwide. When I asked some of the genius’ today whether or not anyone noticed the change, they all said that Facebook stopped working sometime in the past week. One of the genius’ said “Apple Stores have become a regular Internet Cafe, so placing the most popular time-killer [Facebook] of them all on the banned-list will certainly help everyone get a chance to test out the computers”.
As you may have heard, MySpace was banned in May of 2007 from all Apple Stores. When asked why, Apple said “Nearly 2 million people visit Apple Stores every week. We want to provide everyone a chance to test-drive a Mac, so we are no longer offering access to MySpace in our stores.” Apple Stores, which now total 251 worldwide, see an average of 15,744 visitors weekly per store (Q4, 2008). So, currently about 16 million people per month are now denied the right to jump on for a minute (or an hour) to update their status or do their daily stalking. It will be interesting if Facebook will see a slight dip in traffic this month due to the change.
If you use DNA taken from its myriad wing descendants, the idea is not as farfetched as it first appears
By MATT RIDLEY
The short answer is no. The slightly longer answer is definitely not. The Jurassic Park idea „ amber, insects and bits of frog dna „ would not work in a million years, and it was by far the most ingenious suggestion yet made for how to find dinosaur genes. Cloning a mammoth„flash frozen for several thousand years „ might just prove feasible one day. But dinosaurs, 65 million years old? No way.
It is only when you ask the question the third time that you begin to see a glimpse of an affirmative answer. Start with three premises. First, dinosaurs did not die out; indeed there are roughly twice as many species of their descendants still here on Earth as there are mammals, but we call them birds. Second, dna is turning out to be a great deal more "conserved" than anybody ever imagined. So-called Hox genes that lay down the body plan in an embryo are so similar in people and fruit flies that they can be used interchangeably, yet the last common ancestor of people and fruit flies lived about 600 million years ago.
Third, and most exciting, geneticists are finding many "pseudogenes" in human and animal dna „ copies of old, discarded genes. It's a bit like finding the manual for a typewriter bound into the back of the manual for your latest word-processing software. There may be a lot of interesting obsolete instructions hidden in our genes.
Put these three premises together and the implication is clear: the dino genes are still out there. So throw your mind forward a few decades, and try out the following screenplay. A bunch of bioinformatics nerds in Silicon Valley, looking for an eye-catching project to showcase the latest ipo, decide to try to recreate the genome of a dinosaur. They bring together a few complete bird genomes„complete dna texts from the cells of different birds „ and start mapping the shared features. The result is a sort of prototype genome for a basic bird.
Then they start fiddling with it: turning on old pseudogenes; knocking out the genes for feathers and putting back in the genes for scaly skin; tweaking the genes for the skull so that teeth appear instead of a beak; shrinking the wings, keel and wishbone (ostrich genes would be helpful here); massively increasing size and sturdiness of the body; and so on. Pretty soon they have the recipe for a big, featherless, wingless, toothy-jawed monster that looks a little like a cross between a dodo and a tiger.
They might not have to fix that many genes „ just a few hundred mainly developmental ones. The genes for the immune system, for memory mechanisms and the like would all be standard for a vertebrate. To fine-tune the creature, they could go fishing in other bird genomes, or perhaps import a few ideas from lizards and turtles.
Remember, at this stage nothing has left the computer; all they have is a dna recipe. But by the end of this century, if not sooner, biotechnology will have reached the point where it can take just about any dna recipe and read off a passable 3-D interpretation of the animal it will create. After a massive amount of digital trial and error, the nerds reckon they have a recipe for a creature that would closely resemble a small, running dinosaur, such as Struthiomimus ("the ostrich mimic").
The rest is as easy as Dolly the sheep: call up a company that can synthesize the genome, stick it into an enucleated ostrich ovum, implant the same in an ostrich and sit back to watch the fun. Of course, there will be teething troubles - literally. Or somebody might have forgotten to cut out the song bird's voice genes, so the first struth chirps like a sparrow. Or maybe the brain development did not quite hang together and the creature is born incapable of normal movement. As this suggests, the first such experiment will almost certainly produce a bit of a Frankenstein's monster, and the whole idea may well therefore be cruel and unethical, in which case, let us hope it never happens. But that is not the same as saying it will be impossible.
And it just might prove much easier than I am implying. Who knows? Rusty old pseudogenes left over from the great sauropods may still be intact, hidden somewhere in the genes of a hummingbird.
A San Francisco startup led by a former Tesla Motors engineer is developing an electric motorcycle capable of 150 mph, a claim that, if true, would make it the fastest production electric vehicle in the world.
Mission Motors unveiled the bike, dubbed Mission One, at the TED conference and said it will begin selling them next year for $69,000 apiece. Although several electric motorcycles have been announced in recent weeks, Mission Motors sticks out because its 12 employees have worked for Tesla, Ducati North America and Intel, and the bike they're building could set a new benchmark for EVs of all kinds.
"As a motorcycle enthusiast and engineer, I knew I could combine my passion for motorcycles with my passion for innovation and create a motorcycle that truly sets a new standard in the perception of electric vehicles," company founder and CEO Forrest North said at the Mission One's launch.
The prototype, wearing bodywork designed by Yves Behar,
is based on a Ducati 900 was designed entirely in-house by Mission Motors. Power comes from a 3-phase AC induction motor and a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery the company claims delivers 150 miles and recharges in just two hours at 240 volts. That climbs to eight hours at 120 volts.
Top-shelf hardware includes Ohlins suspension at both ends, four-piston Brembo brakes and Marchesini forged wheels. The components - and the claimed 150 horsepower - put the bike on par with hardcore sportbikes like the Ducati 1198. That's exactly what North had in mind.
"With Mission One, we're writing the next chapter in motorcycle design, delivering a new riding experience without sacrificing performance or design in a zero emissions vehicle," he said in a statement.
Mission Motors was called Hum Cycles when North launched the company in 2007 after spending a year at Tesla, where he worked on the battery pack that powers the Roadster. Since then he's assembled an impressive team drawn from Silicon Valley and Ducati North America. Vice president of engineering Mason Cabot spent 10 years at Intel. VP of finance Dan Kaplan was CFO of Ducati North America and director of finance at Tesla. Product manager Jeremy Cleland is a motorcycle racer who also has worked for both Ducati and Tesla.
So far the company has raised $1.5 million from investors and capital venture firms like One Earth Capital. As Forbes notes, that won't last long, and Tesla's shown that building a high-dollar, high-performance EV is a tricky proposition. And in addition to going up against startups like Zero Motors and Brammo, Mission Motors will be competing with major manufacturers like Honda and KTM as they develop electric motorcycles.
North says production will begin next year and he's already sold five bikes. The first run is limited to 50 hand-built bikes, which will be followed by a bigger run of 250 before the company introduces a more affordable model.
The company plans to race the bike in the TTXGP, a zero-emissions motorcycle grand prix slated for the Isle of Man, on June 14th.
Photos: Mission Motors
The very earliest models were considered pagers and could only handle the BlackBerry's signature "push" e-mail and basic data services, though most models from the 5000 series upwards were some of the first smartphone-class devices.
RIM nonetheless reaches the milestone with competition from rivals which have taken less time to accelerate their own sales. Although it has since regained a more definitive lead, the BlackBerry maker briefly lost to Apple during the summer as the iPhone 3G's international launch and a pre-crisis economy helped increase its numbers. The BlackBerry Storm was built with combating the iPhone in mind but has managed a relatively cool 1 million units in two months for Verizon versus Apple's 1.9 million iPhones for AT&T in three months.
Additionally, while RIM courts about 21 million current BlackBerry e-mail users, most of its known introductions for 2009 are relatively modest updates and are rumored to include HSPA-based versions of the Curve 8900 and Storm as well as CDMA versions of previously GSM-only phones like the Pearl Flip.
Belle set as 'Mary, Mother of Christ'
Al Pacino in talks to play Herod in Aloe film
Al Pacino and Jessica Lange are in talks to play Herod and Anna the Prophetess.
MGM plans to release the film wide in 2,000-plus theaters April 2, 2010, which coincides with Good Friday. Media 8 Entertainment will handle international sales and distribution for the film and will introduce the project at the European Film Market in Berlin.
Mike Dolan is exec producing.
Posted by gjblass at 3:41 PM
A woman from Texas has reportedly undergone nine breast enlargement operations to become the proud owner of the world's largest breast implants — size 38KKK.
American doctors had refused to carry out any more operations on Sheyla Hershey, 28, when her breasts were a staggering 34FFF, but that didn't stop her from going under the knife for the record breaking surgery.
"To me, big is beautiful. I don’t think I have anything to worry about," the Houston-resident said.
Still determined to increase her bustline, Hershey jetted off to Brazil where there are no limits on the size of implants.
The surgery required a full gallon of silicone.
Her British ex-boyfriend, who initially paid for her plastic surgery, was dumped after he begged her to stop with the surgery.
"I loved him very much but I had to leave him to follow my dream," she said.
There have been several reasons proposed to explain the paucity of ethanol stations in the U.S. Petroleum conglomerates refused to let franchisees put pumps under the shaded canopy. Gas stations owners are against it. The cars don't exist and customers won't fill up, et cetera (see At Biodiesel Show Freeway Plantations, Chinese Tallow and Algae Anger).
But the real reasons – or at least the one that prevents us from finding out how strong and legitimate those others reasons listed above are – are money and land, says Rob Elam, CEO of Propel Biofuels which wants install ethanol, biodiesel and other types of alt-fuel pumps in existing gas stations.
Putting in ethanol tanks and pumps costs about $100,000 to $150,000 (see Ethanol Margins Suffer). And since 95 percent of gas stations are independently owned, the owners either don't have the money or would rather put it into something with a quick payoff, like new snack racks.
"The major barrier is economics. There is no visibility into how many customers you will get," he said. "It just doesn't make sense and that is why existing gas station owners don't want to do it. They don't necessarily have anything against alt fuels."
And the land problem? Only a small percentage of gas stations can actually accommodate a new tank. Zoning regulations typically require that tanks be located 15 feet or so away from neighboring property lines. In a way, these are the same problems facing many solar developers.
To get around these issues, Propel is offering to build and pay for ethanol pumps itself. It leases space from the gas station owner and in some situation may also share some revenue with the station owner. Ideally, Propel's investment will pay for itself in about three years. The leases can go for eight to 12 years. Last year, Propel raised $4.75 million from, among others, Nth Power and @Ventures.
For a gas station owner, it's an almost no-lose situation, Elam argued. The station gets a new pump and all the public relations that come with having an ethanol pump. It also gets to lease land that probably wasn't used to its productive maximum: it may have had a wiper blade dispenser or rack filled with old copies of the Auto Trader parked on it before. The station might well draw new customers too, particularly those people who've never tried E85 in their flex fuel vehicles or have been filling up that old Mercedes with regular diesel.
The big risk for Propel, of course, is waking those drivers up to the fact that they can drive on ethanol. There are only an estimated 1,500 or so ethanol filling stations in the U.S. although there are over seven million flex fuel cars in the U.S, according to various estimates. GM has estimated it will require 15,000 to 17,000 before we have an ethanol economy.
To reduce its risks, Propel studies demographic data before planting a cluster of stations, similar to the way Starbucks has historically plotted its expansion. (Propel actually works with some of the people who crafted Starbucks "locationing" strategies.). The company looks for a growing population, traffic patterns, the existence of other stations, and even the local car population.
It recently opened five stations in Sacramento, the somewhat large capital of California with sprawl-style commuting where trucks and SUVs are popular, and two more are on the way. Sacramento also happens to be home to lobbyists, regulators and the head of various transportation agencies. Propel will open a hydrogen station in a few weeks. Don't laugh: the local water utility already has hydrogen cars.
Next it may expand to Los Angeles, Riverside County, or the Bay Area.
Locationing isn't perfect. Propel started in Washington state, where trucks, greenery, and eco-promo governments co-exist. But in three years, no one from the city government of Seattle has filled up at the Propel pumps in the area.
Within two weeks in Sacramento, Calif. the company was getting business from the local agencies.
Posted by Chismillionaire at 3:25 PM
Posted by gjblass at 3:20 PM
We've all seen the embarrassing Google Maps images flying around the Web and, well, there are just too many to deny.
Prepare to be exposed.
- 9. Street Fight
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Cereal and snack maker Kellogg Co. says it will not renew its sponsorhip contract with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps because he has acknowledged smoking marijuana last fall.
The Battle Creek, Mich.-based company said Thursday that Phelps's behavior—caught on camera and published Sunday—is "not consistent with the image of Kellogg."
The company put Phelps on boxes of its Frosted Flakes and Corn Flakes.
Phelps has kept the backing of many sponsors since the photos surfaced that showed him inhaling from a marijuana pipe.
Phelps's agent was not immediately available to comment.
Kellogg says its contract with Phelps expires at the end of the month.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
|By Christian Zibreg|
Chicago (IL) - The development of OS X Snow Leopard appears to be entering the final phase. Apple asked a select group of developers to test the latest build against a number of third-party applications and some claim the final version will include location-based and multi-touch technologies. In any case, OS X Snow Leopard is now on the horizon and some think that Apple will time the release to coincide with the next iMac hardware update. Despite its lack of major end-user features, Snow Leopard could be the biggest OS X update ever thanks to one killer feature - speed and performance that will take everyday computing to the next level.
The latest Snow Leopard build is labeled 10A261 and follows previous builds 10A190 and 10A22. Unlike the first two builds, Apple limited this one to a select group of developers, asking them to focus testing on built-in Microsoft Exchange support and new printer drivers. In addition, the company is asking testers to try the build, for the first time, against a number of third-party applications, which could be viewed as a strong indication of the software's near-finished status. According to Macity (via Google Translate), build 10A261 shows greater stability and speed gains than previous ones.
Multi-touch and geolocation features?
According to an AppleInsider report, geolocation APIs and multi-touch support are also in the works. The former will enable creation of applications that can poll the system for user's current latitude and longitude via CoreLocation framework borrowed from the iPhone OS. The latter has been long expected on desktop Macs, especially now that Microsoft has made multi-touch one of key highlights in Windows 7. Although current OS X version pre-installed on Apple's notebooks employs some multi-touch gestures via trackpads, it's unclear if Apple plans to deploy multi-touch across their entire operating system or simply expose existing multi-touch gestures recognized by Macbooks to developers via multi-touch frameworks.
Pausing on innovation - Really?
The latest build shows no new end-user features, following Apple's promise that Snow Leopard will "pause on innovation" to focus on speed optimizations. Core code has been optimized for Intel chips and most applications that ship with OS X are allegedly re-written to execute in the preferred objective-based run-time dubbed Cocoa. TG Daily reported that Finder will get Cocoa treatment as well. Rumor has it that last-minute cosmetic update will bring overall look and feel of Snow Leopard in line with the toned-down graffiti appearance featured in Apple's most recent applications.
Despite the lack of user features, Snow Leopard will be a major update. Integrated support for Microsoft Exchange 2007 in Address Book, Mail and iCal is pretty big as it allows users to sync their corporate email, contacts and calendars across Macs and iPhones out of the box. But the one killer feature that will entice most Mac users to upgrade is speed.
64-bit, GrandCentral, OpenCL, QuickTime X
Snow Leopard will be entirely 64-bit, meaning the operating system and applications could theoretically support up to 16TB of RAM. When it comes to speed, Snow Leopard will leverage two key technologies to take performance to the next level. The first, dubbed Grand Central, is designed to manage and efficiently assign tasks to multiple processor cores found in most Intel-based Macs, resulting in faster performance, especially during heavy multitasking.
This technology also allows programmers to optimize their code for multiple cores and processors, something most of them have been avoiding due to complexity of multi-core programming. As a result, most of today's applications are created with single-core processors in mind and leave it entirely up to the operating system to assign running tasks between cores and processors. Although this could result in modest speed gain, it's nowhere near the quantum leap that would have been possible had programmers optimized the code to specifically take full advantage of multi-core processors.
OpenCL is another key technology debuting in Snow Leopard. Created to tap the potential of today's multi-core GPUs, OpenCL will harness processing potential of graphics chips and re-route it for general purpose computing when the GPU is otherwise idle. Although OpenCL does not enable applications to entirely run off the GPU, specific tasks that involve lots of number crunching could be boosted by orders of magnitude, like video encoding and decoding, image processing, etc. Adobe's latest Photoshop first showcased what can be achieved when image computations are re-routed to the GPU instead of CPU. And many specialized scientific apps can see even greater gains.
QuickTime X rounds up key Snow Leopard technologies built for speed. This multimedia component made its debut with iPhone and will now come to OS X to replace existing QuickTime technology. QuickTime X will expand the number of supported audio and video codecs, but more importantly, it will leverage OpenCL and GrandCentral to offload video processing to the GPU. Tests show that QuickTime X takes only a fraction of processor time to decode HD video compared with QuickTime.
Speed is the name of the game
Of course, neither Grand Central nor OpenCL will automatically make the existing software take full advantage of multi-core CPUs and GPUs. Dramatic speed gains will come in full effect when developers update their applications for Snow Leopard, although modest performance gains should be noticeable in the existing applications as a result of better and more efficient task and resource management on part of the operating system.
Unlike Windows, each version of OS X has been more optimized than the previous, resulting in a snappier performance for users who upgraded to a newer version. With Snow Leopard's focus on speed alone, and with Grand Central and OpenCL specifically designed to harness hidden potential in today's multi-core CPUs and GPUs, Apple could easily widen performance gap between OS X Snow Leopard and Microsoft's Windows 7.
Scheduled to coincide with iMac refresh?
When Apple announced Snow Leopard last June, the company pledged to release the operating system within a year. But some now think the company will time the software release to coincide with the rumored iMac refresh that looms around the corner. The all-in-one desktop system is rumored to ship with Intel's latest Core 2 dual- and quad-core desktop processors - unlike today's iMac that employ mobile versions of Intel Core 2 processor that also power MacBooks. In addition, next iMac will likely employ the latest desktop graphics courtesy of Nvidia.
With Intel's fully fledged desktop multi-core processors, Nvidia's multi-core GPU and OS X Snow Leopard preloaded to fully exploit this potential of updated hardware, the next iMac will likely become a showcase of Snow Leopard's capabilities. By tying Snow Leopard release with iMac refresh, Apple in effect creates a two-way sales driver: Existing users will likely upgrade to Snow Leopard for speed gains alone and desktop users might upgrade to a newer iMac, again - for the maximum performance gains provided through updated hardware and operating system combo.
Beckham is hoping to stay at Milan
David Beckham has confirmed he wants to secure a permanent move to AC Milan from his American club LA Galaxy.
Beckham denied his lawyers were talking to the Galaxy, as Milan general manager Adriano Galliani had claimed, but hopes the two clubs can agree a deal.
"I have expressed my desire to stay," he said. "Now it's just down to Milan and Galaxy to come to an agreement.
"I have enjoyed my time here. I knew I would enjoy it but I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I have."
Beckham was speaking in Glasgow on Wednesday after playing the first 45 minutes for Milan in their 2-2 friendly draw with Rangers.
The England international, 33, is on loan at the San Siro until 9 March and has helped lift Milan to second place in Serie A, scoring in his last two games.
"I've expressed my desire to stay here for a while but at the moment I'm still a Galaxy player," Beckham said.
"I respect the Galaxy and everything they have done for me. They have always been great to me."
But Beckham added: "I hope they can come to an agreement and it's down to the clubs now. At this point it's out of my hands. I've said what my feelings are to both clubs.
"To be given the chance again to play at this level at my age is pretty incredible and I've enjoyed it so much I would like to continue it. I think people have seen the way I've been since playing at this level again."
One of Beckham's key reasons for joining Milan on loan was to prove himself to England manager Fabio Capello and after putting in such impressive performances in Italy so far Beckham now believes the 2010 World Cup in South Africa is a realistic target.
"It's nothing against the MLS and the football over there, because it's a game that will grow but it will take quite a few years.
"I'm still confident that will happen eventually, but I want to have a chance of being involved in 2010 and I believe my best chance of doing so is to remain here."
Galliani had said earlier on Wednesday that Beckham's lawyers were already talking to Galaxy.
"If they show themselves to be ready to look at a deal, we would be really happy to do so," Galliani said.
Beckham is registered with the Serie A giants until 30 June, so if a deal is agreed with the Major League Soccer side then the loan term can be extended outside the transfer window, which closed on Monday.
Milan have taken that into account by including the England player in their Uefa Cup squad.
"We are looking to get him either on loan until the end of the season or on a permanent basis," added Galliani.
"Otherwise, with the greatest regret from everyone - starting with me - Beckham will have to go.
"Players can make their choices but their clubs can refuse their wishes.
"Moreover, Los Angeles Galaxy have always been very nice to us and have behaved in a very gentlemanly manner.
"In any case, at this moment there are no dealings and we haven't made an offer but Beckham's lawyers are talking with Los Angeles.
"There is time until 8 March to get us round a table and close a possible deal."
The Galaxy refused to discuss Galliani's claims. Spokesman Patrick Donnelly said on Wednesday: "We have no comment to make."
However, the former general manager of LA Galaxy, Alexi Lalas says Backham's England career may be the reason he wants to stay in Italy while also recognising the significance his departure would have on the game in America.
"I know how important it is for David to play with the national team," said Lalas.
"Obviously he feels that for him and maybe for Fabio Capello, the best route in order to do that is to be at Milan.
"He has obviously done great things on the field since he has been there and I think he is happy by all accounts.
"For the Galaxy, for Major League Soccer and for soccer in the United States, obviously it is a loss."
In a recent note issued to clients, Apple analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray predicts that Apple will eventually come out with an Apple-branded television set with DVR functionality, and the ability to stream content directly from iTunes.
We expect Apple to design a connected television over the next two years (launching in 2011) with DVR functionality built in. These recorded shows could then sync with Macs, iPhones and iPods over a wireless network. The device would push Apple further into the digital living room with interactive TV, music, movie, and gaming features. With its iTunes ecosystem, Apple could develop a unique TV without any set-top-boxes or devices attached.
Could Munster be onto something?
One of the more overlooked items in Apple's earnings statement a few weeks ago was the phenomenal growth of the Apple TV, which saw its sales increase by 300%. Specifically, acting Apple CEO Tim Cook noted that the movie rental business on iTunes was particularly strong, and that Apple would therefore continue to invest in the Apple TV. Considering that an Apple TV allows users to stream content from their computer onto their big screen TV's, does it make sense for Apple to come out with their own TV altogether?
Rumors of an Apple branded HDTV have been around for quite some time now, but it never quite made sense for Apple to enter that market as the competition between HDTV manufacturers is fierce, and the margins extremely low by Apple standards. But like any market Apple chooses to enter, it would only come out with a product if it contained features that would immediately distinguish it from all other competing products. Purchasing an HDTV with built in iTunes integration and DVR capabilities seems attractive enough to meet that standard. Even more compelling is the idea that users could record programs via their TV, and then sync that content back to their iPods and iPhones for later viewing. Such a feature would allow Apple to command a premium on the price of an HDTV, and altogether avoid the price wars that the majority of other HDTV manufacturers typically and routinely engage in.
While Munster acknowledges that his predictions are somewhat rooted in speculation, he points to a number of factors that when taken together, indicate that Apple might have something big up its sleeve. Specifically, Munster points out that Apple is continuously trying to create an iTunes-centric ecosystem in the living room. He also points to a number of DVR and TV related patent filings submitted by Apple, as well as Apple's recent partnership with LG to provide Apple with a supply of LCD screens. If we've learned anything from Apple over the past few years, it's that it is never content to live off the success of its past products, and is always looks ahead towards the next big thing. It used to be portable MP3 players, and now the 'hot' market is smartphones. If Apple believes that TV's as a media hub is next, then an Apple branded TV might not be as far fetched as it initially seems.
At the same time, there are also a number of reasons why Apple releasing a TV doesn't seem plausible. For starters, adding DVR is more involved than simply furnishing the necessary software, and such a move would also put Apple in direct competition with almost every cable provider that furnishes their own dvr-enabled boxes. Second, one has to wonder if Apple really has anything substantial to gain monetarily by releasing their own TV's. Even assuming that Apple releases a fully featured HDTV in 2011, consumers don' t purchase television sets as frequently as they do MP3 players or phones. As cool as an Apple HDTV might be, it's hard to imagine anyone who's already happy with their current TV actually purchasing a new television from Apple solely for the DVR and iTunes integration.
The fight for digital dominance in the living room has been going on for quite some time, and almost every intiative to win that battle has resulted in failure. Apple, though, seems uniquely positioned to actually succeed where so many others have failed because it can leverage the popularity and simplicity of syncing iTunes content with other media devices. A networked Apple branded TV would undoubtedly help in that regard, but it would probably end up causing more problems than it would actually solve. Also, it's important to remember that no one knows what products Apple is going to release six months from now - let alone 2 years down the line. With all that in mind, the chances for an Apple branded TV seem quite slim.
Ben Stiller producing DreamWorks Animation project
By Jay A. Fernandez and Borys Kit
The satiric film, with a screenplay by Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons, concerns a brilliant superhero villain who loses his life's purpose when he accidentally kills his good-guy nemesis. DWA plans a Nov. 5, 2010, release (though the title might change).
DWA had a banner year in 2008 with its releases "Kung Fu Panda" and "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" (also starring Stiller), which together have grossed more than $1.2 billion worldwide. The Jeffrey Katzenberg-led company also has "Monsters vs. Aliens" in theaters in March, "How to Train Your Dragon" and "Shrek Goes Fourth" in 2010, and a "Kung Fu Panda" sequel scheduled for 2011.
Paramount, which distributes DWA's output, has its own animated feature, "Rango," starring Johnny Depp, in production for a March 2011 release.
Fey, repped by Endeavor and 3 Arts, most recently starred in the Universal comedy "Baby Mama" and is attached to star in the Fox comedy "Date Night" with Steve Carell. She continues to produce, write and star in "30 Rock" on NBC.
The Endeavor-repped Stiller has "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" coming in May and most recently co-wrote, directed and starred in the DreamWorks comedy "Tropic Thunder."
Downey, repped by CAA, has "Sherlock Holmes" and "Iron Man 2" in production this year, and "The Soloist" hitting theaters in April. He did an Oscar-nominated turn in "Tropic Thunder" last summer.
Jay A. Fernandez reported from Los Angeles; Borys Kit reported from Berlin.
In the last week, a pair of new iPhone applications have appeared on the App Store that put the menus of hundreds of restaurants at users’ fingertips. Dubbed GrubHub and CityMint, both applications allow users to order food on the go from online menus, buying entrees, appetizers, and drinks on the fly without the hassle of human interaction.
Our appetites were first whetted three weeks ago, when Chipotle released an official app that let users build their burritos from their iPhone. Unfortunately, the application was pulled down only a few hours after release as a throng of users overwhelmed the app’s servers. The Chipotle app is still missing in action, but these new offerings should be able to hold us over.
At first glance, the two applications seem pretty similar: they both let users browse through the menus of restaurants in their vicinity, adding food items to a virtual cart until they submit their orders. But a closer inspection reveals a few key differences.
GrubHub seems to focus exclusively on restaurants that deliver, so most of its options offer fare like pizza, Chinese, and Mexican food (of course, there are some exceptions). CityMint offers a catalog of restaurants that deliver, but it has also partnered with hundreds of popular restaurants to allow for pick-up. CityMint CEO Frank Kuo says that the company sifted through Yelp for the most frequently and popular restaurants in each region, seeking out the ones that would integrate with their system.
As far as usability goes, both applications seem to work well. CityMint’s interface is more polished and Apple-like, while GrubHub looks more like a web app (though it is native). But GrubHub has the edge on user reviews, which are displayed alongside each restaurant (CityMint doesn’t seem to have reviews integrated at all).
In the end, the app you use will likely come down to which one has restaurants available in your area. CityMint has a larger coverage area than GrubHub and includes a wider variety of locations that offer take-out, but it also costs $2.99 (GrubHub is free). We should also note that there are plenty of web-based applications that offer mobile ordering, but the user experience of these is generally not nearly as good as it is on native apps.
The poor creature was struck by lightning and left with blistering burns. You would expect it to have been cooked alive.
But the cow miraculously survived, apparently unperturbed by the ordeal, and is already back roaming the meadows.
Flame grilled: This poor cow was struck by lightning but, in a rare freak of nature, lives to the tell the tale
Professor of Physical Geography, Jon Nott of James Cook University, said the event was rare but entirely feasible.
He said: 'Cows are susceptible to lightning strikes because both sets of legs are on the ground.
'But, more often than not, they die from it.'
He added: 'The electricity from a lightning strike would enter the front set of legs and exit out the back legs so, based on the picture, it is possible it happened.
'While I can't explain the knee wounds, the ankle wounds would be consistent with those of lightning.'
The cow is believed to have been struck by the bolt in Gladstone, Queensland, Australia, last month.
But if it wasn't for its horrific wounds, you could hardly tell the animal had suffered.
Perhaps it has drawn comfort from the old wive's tale. After all, we are all told that lightning never strikes in the same place twice.
LeapFrog has launched the Text & Learn, a new BlackBerry-style gadget aimed at toddlers
By Claudine Beaumont
The colourful device from LeapFrog has a large LCD screen and full Qwerty keyboard, just like a BlackBerry, as well as a built-in calendar to help children learn the months of the year.
It contains games that teach basic spelling and computer skills, and even has a puppy ‘guide’, called Scout, with whom children can communicate via ‘text messages’.
The toy, which is aimed at children aged three years and older, will cost around £19.99 when it goes on sale in August, and is expected to be a big hit with parents who want to educate their children about modern technology without exposing them to the perceived dangers.
Although the Text & Learn can’t connect to the internet, it has a pretend ‘web browser’ mode which allows children to explore and navigate using the device’s keypad.
“These new learning toys offer children personalised play, on-the-go learning fun and help build preschool readiness skills,” said a spokesperson for LeapFrog.
“We would love to talk to BlackBerry about a tie-up.”
The Text & Learn is the latest in a long line of toys and gadgets aimed at children. Fisher Price make robust digital cameras designed for youngsters, while the iTeddy range of cuddly toys have built in music and video players.
Even Danish toy maker Lego has announced that it is to start making cameras and MP3 players that resembled its famous building bricks.
For several years I've been fascinated by what might be called the geological nature of harddrives – how certain mineral arrangements of metal and ferromagnetism result in our technological ability to store memories, save information, and leave previous versions of the present behind.
A harddrive, though, would be a geological object as much as a technical one; it is a content-rich, heavily processed re-configuration of the earth's surface.
[Image: Geometry in the sky. "Diagram showing conceptual photographs of how satellite versus star background would appear from three different locations on the surface of the earth," courtesy of the Office of NOAA Corps Operations (ONCO)].
This reminds me of another ongoing fantasy of mine, which is that perhaps someday we won't actually need harddrives at all: we'll simply use geology itself.
In other words, what if we could manipulate the earth's own magnetic field and thus program data into the natural energy curtains of the planet?
The earth would become a kind of spherical harddrive, with information stored in those moving webs of magnetic energy that both surround and penetrate its surface.
This extends yet further into an idea that perhaps whole planets out there, turning in space, are actually the harddrives of an intelligent species we otherwise have yet to encounter – like mnemonic Death Stars, they are spherical data-storage facilities made of content-rich bedrock – or, perhaps more interestingly, we might even yet discover, in some weird version of the future directed by James Cameron from a screenplay by Jules Verne, that the earth itself is already encoded with someone else's data, and that, down there in crustal formations of rock, crystalline archives shimmer.
I'm reminded of a line from William S. Burroughs's novel The Ticket That Exploded, in which we read that beneath all of this, hidden in the surface of the earth, is "a vast mineral consciousness near absolute zero thinking in slow formations of crystal."
[Image: "An IBM HDD head resting on a disk platter," courtesy of Wikipedia].
In any case, this all came to mind again last night when I saw an article in New Scientist about how 3D holograms might revolutionize data storage. One hologram-encoded DVD, for instance, could hold an incredible 1000GB of information.
So how would these 3D holograms be formed?
"A pair of laser beams is used to write data into discs of light-sensitive plastic, with both aiming at the same spot," the article explains. "One beam shines continuously, while the other pulses on and off to encode patches that represent digital 0s and 1s."
The question, then, would be whether or not you could build a geotechnical version of this, some vast and slow-moving machine – manufactured by Komatsu – that moves over exposed faces of bedrock and "encodes" that geological formation with data. You would use it to inscribe information into the planet.
To use a cheap pun, you could store terrabytes of information.
But it'd be like some new form of plowing in which the furrows you produce are not for seeds but for data. An entirely new landscape design process results: a fragment of the earth formatted to store encrypted files.
They can even be read by satellite.
[Image: The "worldwide satellite triangulation camera station network," courtesy of NOAA's Geodesy Collection].
Like something out of H.P. Lovecraft – or the most unhinged imaginations of early European explorers – future humans will look down uneasily at the earth they walk upon, knowing that vast holograms span that rocky darkness, spun like inexplicable cobwebs through the planet.
Beneath a massive stretch of rock in the remotest state-owned corner of Nevada, top secret government holograms await their future decryption.
The planet thus becomes an archive.
(Earlier on BLDGBLOG: Geomagnetic Harddrive).
Up to 40,000 planets could support alien life forms, scientists at the University of Edinburgh believe.
By Ben Leach
Researchers have calculated that up to 37,964 worlds in our galaxy are hospitable enough to be home to creatures at least as intelligent as ourselves.
Astrophysicist Duncan Forgan created a computer programme that collated all the data on the 330 or so planets known to man and worked out what proportion would have conditions suitable for life.
The estimate, which took into account factors such as temperature and availability of water and minerals, was then extrapolated across the Milky Way.
Mr Forgan believes that the life forms would not be amoeba wriggling on the end of a microscope but species at least as advanced as humans.
Mr Forgan, who believes it will take 300 to 400 years for us to make contact with our neighbours, said: "I believe the estimate of 361 intelligent civilisations to be the most accurate.
"These would certainly be the most Earth-like civilisations but the bigger figures are certainly possible. We can't rule them out.
"Most of the other planets we have looked at are older than our own – so I would expect to see more advanced civilisations than ours existing."
By Ivo Scepanovic
A man has shed 73 kilograms in just six months after inventing his own diet - onions and garlic.
Commercial painter Momir Zmiric, 42, from the Croatian port of Split, decided to go on such a diet without consulting doctors.
"I did not want to go on a diet recommended by doctors and refused to take any pills as I knew it was all in my mind. I decided to go on a diet and to stop smoking after 25 years on the same evening", Zmiric has said.
He based his new diet on his favourite, low-calorie food - garlic and onions on a plain biscuit washed down with carrot juice.
Momir, 42, said: "I couldn't run even two metres. So I decided to stop eating meat, potatoes, cheese, smoked ham and all the other fattening foods I used to like. And as the weight came off, I started to walk a lot, to swim and to cycle", Momir said,
"I also ate a few other things that tasted nice but weren't fattening," he added, admitting he had eaten some fish but no meat.
"I used to have two kilograms of roasted meat for lunch or an entire roasted chicken. Then at the wedding party of my sister, I decided to stop eating so much. I couldn't bear to look at myself in a mirror anymore. I got a bit drunk at the wedding party, but when I returned home, in the darkness of my room, I decided to go on a diet. In six months, my weight dropped from 165 to 92 kilos", Momir said.
Momir now weighs in at just 92 kilograms after losing nearly half his body weight during the diet.
But doctors have warned against such radical weight loss and dieting.
Dietician Dr Goran Peric said in an interview in local tabloid "24 Sata": "It has helped Momir Zmiric, but it does not mean someone else would have the same results."
Zmiric admitted he had passed through a crisis without cigarettes and the food he had been used to during those six months.
"I just insisted on continuing the diet. There were moments of crisis, but I wanted to lose weight, and, despite what doctors say in the media, I feel good and healthy. You can see I am fit," said the painter. He wants to do more.
"I'm about to launch a website to help other people, and I am also planning to write a book about my experience."
However, he declined to reveal everything about his diet.
"I do not want to do so since I want to leave something for my book. But I can tell you it is not only how much food you eat but also the way you eat it", he said.
"People tell me I might be a candidate for the Guinness Book of Records. I do not know whether anyone else has lost 73 kilograms in six months. But I want more. Now that I do not need to wear 6XL T-shirts anymore, but only XL T-shirts, I want my body to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s in his best days. Believe me, in a year or so, I'll look like Schwarzenegger," Zmiric claimed.
"My main goal is to help other people who are overweight. And I know how many people are. My blood pressure used to be 200. You know, that's just a step away from death. Now, my blood pressure is 120. I often stop overweight people on the street and ask them how much they weigh. Before they get annoyed, I show them a photo of myself six months ago stored in my mobile phone. Then, they start to think about themselves. I want to help all of them," the 42-year-old from Split concluded.
Posted by gjblass at 12:45 PM
While the sequel to The Dark Knight is just in the beginning stages of development, Warner Bros is already looking much further down the line. During today’s Time Warner earnings call, CEO Jeff Bewkes compared the Batman series to the Harry Potter film franchise, saying that they hope to release a long line of sequels.
“We look at Harry Potter. It’s fantastic to have franchises that last that long. We want to do that with Batman and Superman and perhaps Sherlock Holmes. The sequels are as good, with new characters added, as were the originals. That wasn’t the case in the years ago. Warners has more tentpoles as an on-going strategy taht very much lifts its distribution and performance. We think that’s going to hold up our slate in the 2009 - 2010 period. We’ve got four more big tentpoles coming this year.”
I kinda get the impression that if Christopher Nolan does a third Batman film, it will probably be his last. He seems like a filmmaker that wants to move on to his own passion projects, and while Warner Bros has been very patient with him in regards to a Dark Knight sequel, the studio/company is clearly looking much further down the line. Warner Bros wants to make a lot more Batman movies? I know, this is a pretty obvious story, but it’s the first time that Time Warner/Warner Bros has said publicly that they are looking beyond the next film.
I know Zack Snyder has expressed interest in filming an adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns, and even got Frank Miller’s blessing at Comic Con last year. If Nolan isn’t interested in making a fourth Batman film, I would love to see Warner Bros take the leap and do the alternative future story with Snyder in the director’s seat. That way you could give the A-team (cast and crew) behind the Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and Batman 3 a break and still make another Batman flick. Sounds like a much better idea than possibility tanting the franchise with a Justice League movie featuring a recast younger Bruce Wayne.